ALBANY, NY News10()-There’s been efforts at the state level to help formerly incarcerated individuals re-enter society. But second chances aren’t that easy to come by, especially when it comes to housing.
News10’s Anya Tucker spoke with one man who knows that challenge all too well.
Dontie Mitchell is in the midst of apartment hunting for a place that he and two roommates like and can afford.
And he thought they found the perfect place at The Mansions At Technology Park in Rensselaer, New York.
He says the application process went well, until the management company asked about his length of employment. “They said that their policy is that you have to have a year of work,” said Dontie.
Dontie is currently employed and has worked for decades.
The issue is that most of his employment was while he was incarcerated.
Dontie served 24 years for robbery. He was just 17 at the time of the crime. In August, former Governor Cuomo granted him clemency. And since then he’s been working on building a new life.
But he just found out that he’s been denied the apartment, his first move toward housing. He told News10’s Anya Tucker that the manager at the leasing office told him that they would not accept his work history from prison.
“If I were out here for a year longer and I didn’t have a credit history. Or if I didn’t have a work history, I would understand. I have only been home 90 days. “
Anya reached out to the leasing office and management company, they told her to refer to their policy on their website.
New York State Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination based on a conviction record but there’s nothing in the law that says a landlord can’t require a history of employment.
Damara Fredette, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society in Albany says she sees this a lot. “Especially in this community we are seeing people who have several barriers,” said Fredette.
While incarcerated, Dontie earned his associates degree and mentored other young men who have also faced challenges in their past. He says will not back down and continue to advocate for himself and others who are facing these kind of barriers. “People think that things are etched in stone. What’s written can be changed.”